Tag Archives: Bill Wielechowski

Wielechowski wants state Medicaid report released. Says he’ll go to court if necessary.

Gov. Sean Parnell’s administration has for six months declined to make public a report that the state paid for to analyze the effect Medicaid expansion would have on the state. The Department of Health and Social Services paid $80,000 to the Lewin Group, a consulting firm based in Virginia, to write the report. It’s been completed since April, but DHSS won’t release the report until the agency analyzes it.

Alaska state Sen. Bill Wielechowski recently requested the report from DHSS. He was denied. He’s appealing that decision. If he doesn’t receive it, he’ll take it to court, he said.

Wielechowski was told that the report will be made public “once DHSS has completed its analysis and submitted its recommendations to the governor.” Others, including this reporter, have requested the report and have received the same response.

Parnell has not made clear whether or not he would accept funding from the federal government in order to expand Medicaid, a state program that pitches in for health insurance for low income Alaskans and that receives matching federal funds. The report, presumably, will have some impact on Parnell’s decision.

As part of the Affordable Care Act, the federal government has offered up to 90 percent of the money to expand the program. The Lewin Group has completed a similar study for New Hampshire. It found that although not accepting the funds would reduce state Medicaid spending, it would reduce the number of uninsured in the state, and increase federal revenues by $1.8 to $2.7 billion in New Hampshire between 2014 and 2020.

A separate report commissioned by the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium estimated that if the state accepts expansion, 41,500 uninsured Alaskans will become eligible for Medicaid in 2014 and bring an estimated $1.1 billion in new federal revenue to the state over the next seven years,.

Parnell has said that he’ll make his decision on whether or not to expand the program when he presents his budget at the end of the year.

DHSS did not say when it would release the report. According to the Alaska’s Public Records Act, public records need to be released no later than 10 days after requesting them. Not all records are public, however. Some can remain private because they are considered “deliberative” and contain “opinions, recommendations, or advice about policy.”

Legislative lawyers told Wielechowski that the report is not a deliberative document because it contains no advice about policy.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


State Sen. Hollis French has filed to run for governor

Democratic Alaska state Sen. Hollis French has announced his intentions to run for governor against Gov. Sean Parnell. French filed papers with the Division of Elections on Tuesday. He’s “strongly leaning towards it,” but as of yet it’s a preliminary move to see how deep his support runs in the state, French said.

If he does run, he’ll cede his Senate seat, which is up in 2014. So far, only Republican Rep. Mia Costello has filed to run for that seat.

French, a former oil field worker and Anchorage prosecutor, has been a legislator since 2002. In the field of ever-shrinking Democratic lawmakers, he’s been known to be one of the most outspoken. He played a large role in the Sarah Palin saga known as “troopergate.”  Since, he’s been particularly critical of Parnell’s oil tax break. As a member of what was formerly a bipartisan majority in the Senate, French did support oil tax reform, but fought hard against Parnell’s attempts at cutting taxes for the big three oil companies in the legacy fields.

With a Republican majority in the Senate, Parnell got his bill passed during the last legislative session, cutting taxes up to $650 million to more than $1 billion a year at current projected prices and at current production. The companies have said that such relief will help stem the decline of Alaska’s largest oil fields and incentivize production of the smaller fields.

French, however, sees it as a give away. If he runs and is elected, that’s the first thing he will try to undo.

“There’s a way to reform oil taxes that benefits both the state and industry in a business-like manner,” he said. He’s particularly critical of doing away with the windfall tax, commonly called progressivity, which increased taxes based on the price of oil.

“It was an enormous give for what we got in exchange,” he said. “We got nothing.”

French would also forward fund education, and accept federal money to expand Medicaid, something that Parnell has been on the fence about. Not accepting the money, is “as wrong as wrong can be,” French said, citing the harmful effects that not accepting the funds could have on Alaskans and particularly on small businesses.

“There are tens of millions of free dollars to the state that he’s turned his back on,” French said.

It’s unclear what effect French’s move will have on the nascent movement to draft the other outspoken Democratic senator, Bill Wielechowski, to run with independent candidate Bill Walker. Pollster Ivan Moore has been pushing the ticket, and has warned that it’s all but doomed if a Democrat runs.

French declined to comment on Wielechowski’s role in the race, but he did say that he thinks an independent running helps him. He pointed to 1994, when former Gov. Knowles squeaked with a win, beating the Republican candidate Jim Campbell by only 536 votes. In that race, Lt. Governor Jack Coghill ran on the Alaskan Independence Party ticket and received 13 percent of the vote. Had Coghill not been in the race, many of those votes would have likely gone to Campbell.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


BW2 : A “squared” idea that sounds cool to some of Parnell’s opponents

Bill W2Fourteen percent of Alaska voters are registered Democrats. About 27 percent are Republicans. The rest belong to the Libertarians, Alaska Independent Party and the vast majority are undeclared. So those who want to beat Republican Gov. Sean Parnell, whose term is up next year, had an idea: put parties aside and join the independent candidate for governor with the likely Democratic nominee.

And if those candidates are both named Bill, and both have last names that start with W, you’ve at the very least a good campaign logo: Meet “BW2.”

It also doesn’t hurt that Bill Walker, the gubernatorial candidate, is a Republican at heart and that he’s friends with Democrat Sen. Bill Wielechowski, the potential lieutenant governor, and that both have the potential for populist appeal.

To be clear: right now, the scheme seems more of a quixotic Facebook campaign than anything. But the two have been talking about the possibility. Walker said that although he’s a Republican, he and Wielechowski agree on more issues than they disagree, particularly oil taxes.

Walker isn’t the firebrand on the issue that Wielechowski is, but he doesn’t think that the bill that passed, SB21, had the necessary investment assurances and said that he wouldn’t have voted for it if he were in a position to do so.

Pollster Ivan Moore, whose been pushing the BW2 idea, is sure that this is the only chance to beat Parnell, whose support is relatively strong statewide and especially among Republicans.

“The only ticket that could possibly beat Parnell right now is a ticket that unites moderate Republicans, independents and Democrats,” Moore said.

“If the Democrats put someone in the race now, it dooms the Democrats and independents and instantly reelects Parnell,” he said.

Word is that the Democratic Party is none-too-happy about the possibility and has been trying to pressure Wielechowski to abandon the idea. But the party doesn’t really have that much leverage these days. Its numbers are down. Campaign finance reform that the Dems pushed for has greatly limited its fundraising ability. And its bench of candidates is dismally short.

If nothing else, it would be fun and could provide the kind of excitement that Parnell seems incapable of generating.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Walker goes Independent and Wielechowski takes his time

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker is now Independent candidate Bill Walker. Walker thinks that he’ll have an easier time bypassing the primary and challenging Parnell as an Independent, and he’s likely right.

Parnell’s numbers are strong. A recent poll conducted by local pollster Marc Hellenthal shows Parnell’s approval rating is 57 percent positive and 26 percent negative.

Where Parnell could be vulnerable is on oil taxes. Hellenthal said that his poll showed that roughly as many people would vote for a candidate who would support repeal of the oil tax bill than a candidate who wouldn’t support repeal. However, 22 percent are undecided.

That’s a lot of undecided voters and a big opportunity to change some minds. And the next legislative session will likely provide that opportunity. Because of the tax break, the state will likely be facing a deficit. Oil production will not have increased, and the opportunities for talking points and great campaign ads will be numerous, on both sides of the issue.

Because Walker has been more focused on issues surrounding a natural gas pipeline than on oil taxes and has never fully embraced the repeal crowd, there’s also room for a Dem in the race to take on that issue. Both Democratic Sens. Bill Wielechowski and Hollis French are considering a run. Wielechowski, whose seat isn’t up, has less to lose than does French. However, French has a strong challenger in Rep. Mia Costello. And he can only run in one race.

Wielechowski, apparently not an Andrew Marvell disciple, said that “there’s plenty of time.”

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com